Thursday, August 27, 2015

R-8 Board approves $1,078 payment to mortgage company for "student need"

When former Superintendent C. J. Huff launched Joplin Bright Futures in April 2010, it was praised, and rightly so, for its efforts to meet student needs within 24 hours.

If students needed coats, shoes, or supplies of any kind they had it within 24 hours. As time passed, the scope of Bright Futures expanded to include such things as food packets to take home over the weekend.

Nearly $10,000 was spent on gifts during the holiday season.

And now, it appears that the organization may be expanding into questionable territory.

During Tuesday night's Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting, the board approved a $1,078.92 bill from Caliber Home Loans, an expenditure that was described as "student need," on the bill list. Another "student need" listed was $825 to T & J. Smith Properties.

In July, the board approved a $500 payment to Empire District Electric Company, $300 to Hull Plumbing, and $714 to Brown Property, again, all for "student need," which is almost always the code words for Bright Futures.

The question is not whether the district can afford to do these things. Bright Futures is reportedly completely funded through donations, but having the school district, through Bright Futures, is paying for someone's rent and utilities, is setting a dangerous precedent. With so many people who have trouble making ends meet, do we have a panel deciding who receives this kind of help? It certainly isn't the Board of Education.

Are the decisions being made by the blue ribbon Bright Futures Advisory Board? Or are the decisions left completely up to those who are running Joplin Bright Futures, people with little or no experience in dealing with issues that are normally left to social service agencies"

A few other interesting bills that were approved by the board Tuesday night:

-Another $222.14 for Director of Curriculum, Learning, and Assessment Sarah Stevens to cover expenses from her presentation at the Visible Learning Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Stevens helped fired consultants Paul Bloomberg and Barb Pitchford of Core Collaborative put on a workshop on how successful their program was here. The workshop was held at the annual Visible Learning Conference in San Antonio, Texas, and Stevens was joined by Executive Director of Elementary Education Jennifer Doshier, Executive Director of Secondary Education Jason Cravens, and Executive Director of Special Services Mark Barlass. WIth the latest expenditure, taxpayers paid more than $3,000 for the trip, including $575 in expense reimbursements in July and $2,396 in February.

-$74.69 to Schlotzsky's Deli for salad baskets with chicken and cinnamon rolls, listed as "supplies."

-$232 to the Rib Crib for a meal for the July Board of Education meeting

-$370 to the Joplin Rotary Club for Bright Futures Director Melissa Winston's membership dues

--$300 for "security services" for the July Board of Education meeting

-$41,666 to Shopko for the lease for the mall high school

-$11,187.50 to Northpark Mall for the rent for the mall portion of the high school

A signing for my book Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado will be held this Saturday, August 29, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Always Buying Books in Joplin. Hope to see you there.


Anonymous said...

So, when are things going to get better? Same wasteful spending, same bloated employee load at admin, paying rent for doctor's daughters, miserable overload of work, and raises eaten up by insurance. Oh yeah, this is a great year so far. Ridder needs to quit talking and start doing. Tick tock.

Anonymous said...

Bright Futures is a slush fund to be used as employees wish. Now it looks like the district is putting in tax dollars. Hello folks, wake up...

Anonymous said...

Paying rent for a doctor's daughter? Can you elaborate more about that? That sounds irresponsible to me

Anonymous said...

Now I know where my raise went. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Randy - you should find out if any of those property companies have ties to the district ...
A 1,078 mortgage payment sounds like a very nice place to live. And a $500 payment to Empire sounds like the AC was cranked and household lights were on 24/7.

Anonymous said...

More "might as well" spending?

Anonymous said...

Our organization will no longer donate to bright futures.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't the new board member who ran on the change platform pull those items for discussion?

Anonymous said...

Why didn't the new board member who ran on the change platform pull those items for discussion?

We frequently heard that the Huff regime would spend money before getting board authorization, lots of money in the case of those high school gym seats, so I'd assume at first that the money has already been spent, and the new board and superintendent are concentrating on stopping that practice, among many other things.

Much could be going on behind closed doors, like "If you spend money on another item like this without getting board approval, it'll be coming out of your paycheck." if that's legal, or it'll be a firing offense. Or maybe incidents like this are being used to build the case for firing some people for cause. By now, Ridder must realize that a number of people in administration have to go, but doing that without legal exposure while keeping the district functioning, especially at the start of a new school year, requires care.

For those of us who'd like to see certain parties removed yesterday, if he's really good, he might be waiting for them to relax enough to show their true colors, in addition to things like putting them on the spot in board meetings, as we saw in the last one.

Anonymous said...

Please, this is an outrage, should we all ask bright futures for help. People that are qualified to make the decisions work at social service, and other focused organizations I thought. I am sure there are plenty who need this kind of help, but what are the guidelines to apply, what are the qualifications of the people making the decisions to spend this money this way. More importantly, this changes what Bright Futures goals were based on what I thought anyway. Items and food for kids. Show us some receipts. And if the school board can't grab a bite to eat before they go to a meeting, should be a limit on what is spent, i.e. $10 per person. It costs way more to eat at Rib Crib than McDonalds.

Anonymous said...

>>For those of us who'd like to see certain parties removed yesterday, if he's really good, he might be waiting for them to relax enough to show their true colors, in addition to things like putting them on the spot in board meetings, as we saw in the last one.<<

Ideally incompetents remove themselves by resigning. Putting them on display and making them spout their nonsense in public and on the permanent record is a good start in encouraging them to think about greener grass elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Bright Futures was supposed to provide for kids going without. Whether food, clothing, school supplies or anything else. I know when they started, they would post requests on emails and facebook. They got a hot water tank for a family and beds for kids who were always sleeping on the floor. There's nothing wrong with that.
It didn't take long until requests were required to go through Huff and his minions. Much like when the city stopped everyone from going ahead and rebuilding, those requirements actually made things come to a halt.
Teachers, counselors and others at school usually know what kids need. They really do. And they really asking for help FOR THE KIDS, not glory for themselves.

Anonymous said...


The kids are saying that Bright Futures bought a bicycle and paid rent for a high school graduate that left home to live with her boyfriend. I don't know how anyone would verify that. The girl is said to be a doctor's daughter, but I have no details about who it is and I don't know if we should say. She isn't the problem here. Bright Futures and its board and director are the issue. The kid had already graduated, which makes the purpose of Bright Futures questionable. It's supposed to be there to help students so they can graduate, not continue the service after they are gone. I won't give them any money at all. There are other charities in town that are more responsible and don't have CJ Huff and his corrupt friends on the board. Not sure how anyone will prove this story, and I know kids can exaggerate, but there's usually a fire where there's smoke.

Anonymous said...

I would like for the district to pay for my phone like they do for admin since they are now asking me to use my phone for school business. And if the district can pay for meals and treats for admin and the board when they are inconvenienced, I expect them to do the same for the staff. Seems fair. Or maybe they should think of the taxpayers, which included teachers and staff, and say to themselves, "Since we have wasted so many millions already, perhaps we should feed our faces before we get to the meeting." And maybe the administrators can pay for their own phones. And insurance. It is now going to cost my family almost $1500 a month for insurance with a $950 deductible, while admin gets theirs free. They can afford it better than I can.

I agree with the first commenter. It's time for Ridder to quit telling us things are going to be fun or exciting. This year is no more fun or exciting than any other. In some ways it's worse. More new stuff thrown at us. More demands. And the puny raise is gone for insurance. We need help and we can't wait until March. By then a lot of us will be looking elsewhere. I literally cannot afford to stay here much longer. I'm not alone. Talk is cheap. Living is not.

Anonymous said...

The board could consult with Billy Long to find out how to eat for free.

An alternate solution would be for the board to pay out of their own pockets for the meals that they eat at local meetings. There is no reason that they should eat for free just because there is a meeting. Whatever they agree to spend should be out of their pockets, not just more grifting from the taxpayers.